Open Sun—Wed midday—11pm, Thu midday—midnight, Fri—Sat midday—1am
Don’t judge a pub by its exterior—one glance and you might think the Walmer Castle is a ordinary, post-work drinking hole at the edge of Portobello Road and Westbourne Grove, but once inside, you’re transported to a magical Hogwarts-esque haven with superb food, quiet drinking spots or reading rooms, and huge armchairs you can get lost in.
It has a comforting environment and easy atmosphere to catch up with friends or enjoy a relaxed date night—no one is hunched over mobile phones nor are there TVs pinned to every wall, making it feel sociable and welcoming.
With sweet saxophone tunes and soft Adele melodies, it feels very lounge-like; leather armchairs in cosy corners, a smaller room off to one side (think ‘Gryffindor common room’), and original features like old floorboards, panelled walls, and vintage brew house memorabilia. It’s had a revamp, but thankfully the soul and history of the pub has been maintained.
There is a stunning bar/function room on the first floor as well—definitely not forgotten in the designing of the pub, and arguably even cosier than the main bar below, with an added touch of elegance. If available, I recommend eating up there while peering out of enormous sash windows onto the street.
Westbourne Grove locals gathering outside for a post-work pint, or couples enjoying the more chilled scene inside while sipping on a drink, reluctant to ever leave the cosy armchairs. The managers are extremely passionate about the pub, and you really feel they’ve put their heart and soul into the food and the environment.
We opted for a selection of ‘sharers’ (three for £13) to start: handmade scotch egg, lime and chilli glazed squid, and pea, feta and mint arancini balls. Other sharing dishes include braised brisket cubes, and scallops on the starter menu. The arancini balls were probably the most memorable—gone is my impression of sticky, crumbly, bland balls of risotto rice, now replaced with the vivid flavour of crushed pea shoots and mint encased in a crisp breadcrumb layer, on a bed of fresh and beautifully handmade smoky red pepper hummus. The giant scotch egg was served up with HP sauce, oozing a golden runny yolk from the centre, and the squid was chunky, tender and light.
Wednesdays offer a ‘burger and beer’ deal for £10, which reeled my partner in before he’d even had a chance to eye up the rest of the menu. He said it was ‘one of the best burgers’ he’d ever had; perfectly cooked, a creamy premium cheese melted over the top, and a stack of fat onion rings on the side.
The Walmer Castle’s menu reveals what a talented chef they have tucked away in the kitchen, with each dish featuring a little twist on something, be it sea-reared rainbow trout served with a blood orange sauce, slow cooked lamb shoulder with roast garlic mash, or a wild boar and pork ragu pasta.
I regret not trying any of the chef’s tantalising specials (we both do… we ordered in hasty excitement after seeing so much to choose from) but my 21-day-aged sirloin steak (£15.25) was juicy and rare, with a smoked cheddar and onion slice and baby kale salad (I saw the word ‘kale’ and that was it). I would have liked to see something a little more exciting done with the baby kale and parmesan salad—perhaps something vibrant, colourful, and fresh to complement the steak—but that’s probably the health nut in me speaking.
We also ordered a side of truffle mac’n’cheese ‘bites’ (£3.75) because they really sounded too good to miss out on, and I can confirm they are very delicious and very moreish in every way.
The wine list has a refreshing range, including a grape I’ve been recommending to all my friends—Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc. It’s crisp, lightly fruity and tangy. There’s also a hubby-pleasing eclectic selection of craft and seasonal beers, providing something for everyone, plus a ‘coming soon’ board of beers to look forward to, for the regular visitor.
In a nutshell
A pub that hasn’t yet been properly discovered by London, but deserves to be.